Let’s talk about periods.
This is Betsy from the PYE team. We didn’t let Chris write this one, although I know that awkward topics are no big deal to him. We recently had an OB/GYN ask us about the best period tracking apps that she can recommend to young patients. This isn’t the first time we’ve received this question.
To begin, we were surprised at how much other baggage comes with some of the more popular period tracking apps. I guess it’s no surprise – if you’re tracking your period as an adult, then you’re probably also interested in sex and fertility. But then there were the chat features on these apps and this is where it got really explicit. No surprise! Anonymous sharing is often raw and extreme.
Age: older teens
Tracking options: This app is FULL of tracking options (bleeding, collection method, cravings, digestion, fluid, hair, pain, skin, stool, weight, temperature, emotions, energy, mental, motivation, sleep, social, appointments, exercise, party, sex, ailment, IUD, Injection, medication, patch pill, ring, tests).
Pros: Written in a more medical/matter of fact way
Cons: Each of the options has an info button that explains what it is and why you want to track it. For example: The “Party” option allows you to track drugs, hangovers, cigarettes, and drinks. The “Sex” option allows you to track protected/unprotected (there are descriptions), and it discusses how sex drive can be impacted by the fluctuations in hormones throughout a cycle. Clue also offers the option to toggle off if they can collect usage data under a unique identifier. They do have articles/tips that pop up. The one available now is about how to exclude a cycle from the analysis. In the article it gives examples of possibly needing to do this because of Plan B use, an abortion, a miscarriage, pregnancy, etc.
Our Thoughts? Older teens. We like that there isn’t a chat feature, however there is a lot of information your younger teen might not be ready for.
Age: Adults only (the secret chat is highly explicit)
Tracking options: Similar to Clue, Flo offers multiple options for the user to track. These include sex/sex drive, mood, symptoms, discharge, and other (travel, stress, disease and injury, alcohol).
Pros: Flo is full of insights and articles, but most require a premium upgrade to access. The articles range from cycle phases, reproduction, nutrition, mental health, sexual wellness, and more. There is a lot of information for young women if they have questions but don’t have a trusted adult to talk to, however most are only accessed with a premium account. One thing to note is that some of the articles available in the premium account may be information you aren’t ready for your child to have access to quite yet.
Cons: The Secret Chats feature contains explicit content. Really extreme sexual fantasy stuff. This is available in the free version, and it is a place where users can anonymously ask and answer questions. Just a quick scroll through this section revealed a lot of mature content. We found questions about skin care, and then questions about “booty calls,” sexual fantasies, sexting, oral sex etc. The responses to some of the questions in the secret chat were very graphic and detailed.
Our thoughts? This app is appropriate for adults. While Flo is chock full of information, it also means there is access to a lot of information your child isn’t ready for. The Secret Chat feature makes this app in particular one we would not recommend for teens.
Age: maybe upper middle school, ok for high school
Tracking Options: This app tracks temperature, weights, symptoms, moods, sexual activity, medicine, and flow.
Pros: You can set a passcode for this app. You can toggle off the intercourse log, ovulation and fertility info, and pill tracking.
Cons: There are ads (mine was for a calculator app) but going premium removes ads. There is also no user generated content in this app.
Our Thoughts? This app looked fairly safe. This would be appropriate for a middle school or early high school student. We like that there isn’t any user generated content and that there is an option to toggle off intercourse log, fertility info, and pill tracker.
Age: adults (community feature has predator risk)
Tracking Options: The FitBit app allows you to track multiple areas of health. As far as menstrual cycles, the FitBit app tracks mood, protected or unprotected sex, ovulation test, fluids, and other events (the option given here is the morning after pill).
Pros: You can actually use the FitBit app without having a FitBit. The app allows you to track multiple areas for your health.
Cons: The FitBit app has a community option where the user can join any of the community groups once email has been verified. There are different topics for each group, and even options to join groups of people who are near your location.
Our thoughts? The Fitbit menstrual cycle tracker seems pretty straight forward. This app would be appropriate for an older teen, but our concern is always when there’s a “community” option and the chat that comes with it.
Tracking Options: This app is literally as basic as the name. It only tracks your period.
Pros: There is no community, no e-commerce, and no news. The premium option is only $0.99 for the year. There isn’t anything related to pregnancy or fertility.
Cons: Not available on Google Play.
Our thoughts? We feel that this app looks like a good option for a young girl. There are no bells and whistles with this one. The most significant concern is that it’s a super small start up, which means privacy might not be as buttoned up as the larger apps above. But since you don’t create an account, it’s anonymized data at best.
- Apple Watch
Tracking options: This app tracks temperature, weights, symptoms, moods, sexual activity, medicine, and flow.
Pros: It’s already on the iPhone! Nothing extra to download.
Cons: Not available on Google Play.
Our thoughts? We feel that this app looks like a good option for a young girl.
Concluding thoughts about our research.
You’d think that finding an app appropriate for young girls who just want to track their periods would be easier than this, but it’s a good reminder to check out the apps your kids are using. Always check apps for chat features and mature content. A good rule of thumb is that any app with user generated content increases the risks.
A period tracker app is a great tool to help your daughter understand her cycles (we wish we had these when we were younger!), but nothing beats a trusted adult to come to with the embarrassing questions about how her body works and sexual health. These are topics safer left to conversations with trusted adults rather than Google searches and period tracker apps. We highly encourage you to make conversations about our bodies, sex, periods, and hygiene the norm with your daughter.
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